How Immersive Technology Is Growing Exponentially – Motley Fool
In this episode of Industry Focus, Jason Moser chats with Brightline Interactive’s Tyler Gates and Sophia Moshasha about everything virtual reality and augmented reality. They also discuss the role of 5G in the development of immersive technology, the latest innovations, and the amazing ways AR/VR is being used today. Discover where the technology is headed.
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This video was recorded on April 29, 2020.
Jason Moser: It’s Wednesday, April 29. I’m your host, Jason Moser. Recently, I had the good fortune to jump on the Everything VR & AR podcast with Brightline Interactive’s Tyler Gates and Sophia Moshasha to talk about investing in immersive technology, the upcoming implications of 5G, and a whole lot more.
Tyler is the managing principal of Brightline Interactive and president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the VR/AR Association. Sophia is the director of immersive platforms of Brightline and also the vice president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the VR/AR Association. And what unfolded was a really fun and enlightening conversation. I learned a lot and I think you will too. So I hope you enjoy this week’s Wild Card Wednesday–Everything VR & AR podcast mashup.
Sophia Moshasha: We are joined here today by our good friend Jason Moser, who’s a senior analyst at The Motley Fool. Welcome, Jason. Happy to have you on this call with us today.
Moser: Very happy to be here, as I’ve been hearing the music and I’m waiting to hear the podcast, then I realized, I’m actually the guest on the podcast. It’s really cool.
Moshasha: That’s right. Finally, you are a guest on our podcast. I know I’ve been over to your offices over in Alexandria, right down the street from our office. And you have a really cool studio, and we are looking forward to getting on your level of your five podcasts that you guys have out by professional production over there.
And before we go into your background and to how you got into your current position, can you just explain a little bit about who The Motley Fool is? Because it does sound like a Shakespearean character.
Moser: [laughs] Well, it is. You know, we oddly enough, I mean, the name did come from the Shakespeare play As You Like It. We are a company, we’ve been in existence for about 26 years now, I think. We’re founded by David and Tom Gardner, and that ultimately was the idea behind the name. The Motley Fool is, you know, Wall Street is full of esoteric language and tough-to-understand concepts, and our goal is really to bring financial literacy, financial education, and financial independence to the masses. And so, we’re kind of like the jester: We can come speak truth to power without fear of having our head lopped off, so to speak. And so, that’s where the name The Motley Fool really came from, is just being able to actually speak truth to power.
And we’ve really enjoyed the ride; we’ve been at it for a while now.
Moshasha: So appropriate for the industry that you’re in. Love it. So going back, then, start at the beginning — not the beginning, beginning of your career, but beginning of relevance of what you’re doing now. How did you get to The Motley Fool and how did you get to be the lucky one to be able to be the advisor on Augmented Reality and now immersive technology?
Moser: Yeah. I mean, I’ve had a pretty long and convoluted, sort of, work history. So I’ve worked in a number of different industries. I was a golf professional for a while, I was at a bank for a while, I was at an insurance company for a while, I actually even worked for the State Department for a while as well. And that all led me ultimately to The Motley Fool about 10 years ago. I was a member of The Motley Fool’s investment services and, really, I just found my tribe, so to speak. I knew when I signed up that this was just a community of like-minded folks who just enjoyed investing and learning.
And at some point, I made some connections and got lucky enough to get my foot in the door for an interview with the company and was able to join the company. And I just celebrated my 10th year there in February. And so, my time there has been spent really as an investment analyst the entire 10 years, learning how to be a good analyst, learning how to be a good analyst in all sorts of different markets, whether it’s healthcare or tech or retail or what have you.
And all along the way, we’ve had our podcast family that’s grown and developed, and I’ve been very lucky to be a part of that from the start. As you mentioned, we have five different shows now that we do, and I’m a part of actually three of them, which is really fun.
And then a year ago, almost a year ago, we opened up the Augmented Reality investment service, a service geared toward investing in the opportunities that augmented reality presents. And my interest in the space, I think, was part of what got me in there as being the advisor for the service and just my general interest in learning more about it. And so I’ve really enjoyed the last year and a-half diving into the space, learning as much about it, and then being able to bring that to our members in the form of investable ideas, because ultimately, we’re trying to help them make money at the end of the day and achieve their financial independence by building a portfolio of great publicly held companies. And we’re just finding more and more that there are a lot of businesses out there that are making a lot of investments in augmented reality and immersive technology, and so that’s gotten me where I am today.
Tyler Gates: Yeah. And, Jason, you know, I think I want to pause here for a second and say that what’s so valuable about what you’re saying is that it’s quite a stamp of validation for the augmented reality market to have you all, specifically you all, be focused in on the advancements, the growth, and then being able to communicate that out to investors. It really, sort of, allows augmented reality to stake its claim inside this market as a validated technological vertical.
And so, what I’m kind of curious to know before we get into, from your professional opinion is, what was it from the personal side, what was that, sort of, personal interest in augmented reality, and what do you see in it that makes you so confident for its future?
Moser: Yeah. I think growing up, I mean, I always, like I grew up in that video game era where you had the Atari, the Nintendo, and you could see how technology and entertainment was playing a bigger role in our lives. And then, you know, when the smartphone came around, I mean, I think the smartphone is really that lightning-in-a-bottle product or concept that has opened up. I mean, it’s essentially a window, it’s a portal to the entire world and the potential that technology can do for us as a world, as a global society.
And so, for me, I’ve always been very interested in tech and stuff like that. I wouldn’t call myself necessarily an early adopter, but I’m kind of an early adopter, maybe the second-level early adopter. When new technology comes out, I love to fiddle with it and see what the prospects are there. And so, when I take that mindset and my interest in those sorts of things and then you look at the actual numbers behind it.
For us, we felt like, at The Motley Fool, that augmented reality and immersive technology was coming to its moment. I mean, we are in a moment now where technology has gotten so good and so fast and so cool, that we’re seeing all sorts of different changes in the ways that we do things, whether it’s in healthcare or retail or engineering or entertainment. I mean, we could see just from the numbers, when we were looking at the augmented reality market in specific, that in 2017 it was valued at around $4.2 billion. But when we look forward and we see these estimates, and there’s a research company called MarketsandMarkets that’s done some research there and shows that this opportunity in augmented reality is expected to top $60 billion by 2023. And so, for us, as investors, one of the things that we’re always looking for is large and growing market opportunities, because that represents opportunities for investors. And we see augmented reality as one piece of that, but then you take a step back and you look at immersive technology, in general, augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, all of that combined, it’s presenting a phenomenal market opportunity in all sorts of different verticals. Again, whether it’s entertainment or engineering or healthcare, what have you. And so, for me, as an investor, that’s really exciting. And then you couple that with something that I’m interested in, in technology, in the development of this immersive technology market. It was just really a win-win from that perspective, which was why I was so excited to have the opportunity to do it.
Moshasha: You know, we’re happy to have you join us in this market, in this exciting industry, Jason.
Gates: Yeah. And so, to ask specifically, what are you seeing, what are the trends that you’re seeing? I mean, we certainly see trends from our perspective, but we tend to see that from the perspective of the actual technology and the actual capability. And so, you have a particularly intriguing perspective, especially for those of us who are working inside this industry, because your perspective really helps us see, sort of, what the end customer, what the investor is interested in and what kind of markets are, sort of, developing outside of the direct ecosystem of that particular technology. And that’s kind of what we’re seeing a lot happening right now is, these technologies that used to be, sort of, used in this one form or fashion is now applicable across the board.
For example, our partners we’ve had in the podcast a bunch, Unity Technologies. Unity Technologies started out as a game engine for video games, but is now, and Unity calls it a creation engine, and that creation engine is now focused on, because it is a way for us to develop content, that content development is now not so singularly focused on video games. It’s now, sort of, spreading out and becoming content that’s being developed for large-scale training simulations, large-scale enterprise solutions, and then beyond video gaming, into the entertainment market, into the on-demand market. And so, what is it that you see from the investor’s perspective that is so attractive about the capabilities of augmented reality?
Moser: Well, yeah, I think you really hit in on the two different sides of the coin there, right? I mean, I think we see on the one side, immersive technology for the consumer, and on the other side, immersive technology in industry. And I think that up to this point, it feels like augmented reality and virtual reality, they’ve been cool concepts, they’ve been neat in theory, but it’s been difficult to really bring it over to the consumer side. It’s hard for the everyday consumer to be able to understand how or why this immersive technology affects them, how it plays into their lives.
And so, you know, we look at what I call the big four in this space, and I’m talking about companies including Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook. These are the big four tech companies out there that are making big investments in immersive technology on both the consumer side and the industrial side, as you know. Which has always been really interesting to see for us. I mean, they hold terrific competitive advantages just in their scale and their financial resources. They can pretty much do whatever they want. And these are companies that can bring a lot of this technology in-house and develop it on their own.
And I think, you know, that when we saw the game Pokémon GO come out, you remember the success that that game witnessed as it rolled out, and it took the world by storm. And, you know, we were talking about this before, Tyler, I mean, really, that’s not the most comprehensive application of augmented reality, it’s a pretty simple concept. But all of a sudden, what that did, it put that augmented reality technology into the consumer’s hand in such a way that they were utilizing it, they were using it day after day after day, and they were having a lot of fun with it. And so, all of a sudden there, you start to see at least one application where consumers are getting a better understanding of how this technology could play a role in their lives.
But then, if you take it further into something like the retail space, for example. I’ll use Wayfair as an example, you know, the online home furnishings company. And I think Wayfair is a company that when it first went public, a lot of people didn’t really give it much of a shot. And the main reason why was that it was hard to grasp that you would be able to buy a couch online without actually being able to see that couch in person or being able to see how that couch might fit in your room. Most people, they kind of want to go to the store, sit on the couch, get an idea of what it looks like. And so, I think, people thought maybe Wayfair was going to have a problem with that.
Well, Wayfair, what they’ve done is they’ve incorporated augmented reality into their app so that you can actually go and shop in Wayfair and you can take your phone and you can hold it, you know, showing a picture of your room, you can hold in your room and angle it where you think that couch might go, and then you can actually, using their augmented reality, you can place that couch in your room so that it’s actually occupying that space. The length, the width, the depth, whatever it may be, you can actually get an idea then of how that couch might fit in your room, and that was another consumer application where we said, OK, that’s another step beyond something like a Pokémon GO, for example. You can see more and more how consumers might be able to benefit from this technology.
But what really opened my eyes in learning about this space, that I didn’t expect, and it took me a little bit by surprise, was the industrial applications. The affects, the impact that it’s having on industry and manufacturing and development and training applications and whatnot. I mean, you’re seeing companies with workers on assembly lines utilizing smart glasses and headsets to do their jobs on a daily basis, utilizing immersive technology to do their jobs and to do them better, to do them more quickly and more efficiently. Or new hires, you know, we talked before about going in there and utilizing training platforms that bring immersive technology into the mix.
And so, for me, the consumer applications, I think, are still maybe just getting started. I think people are really starting to understand more and more the potential there, but what really opened my eyes was what we’re already seeing in the industrial side with companies like PTC or Ansys, companies that are utilizing this technology on a daily basis.
And it’s really making a difference. I mean, you can see it when we study these companies. I mean, you can actually hear from management themselves talking about the impact that this technology is making on their business to do things better, to do them more quickly, to do them more efficiently. And that really is the name of the game when we’re looking for good investment is companies that are leveraging technology to really save money and grow the business.
Gates: And that’s naturally the result of immersive technology, which has been interesting for us to watch over the last six or seven years. And I just want to go back, Jason, to what you’re talking about when you talk about how people adopt the technology, how people understand it. I think what we’re seeing happen is, there really is sort of these three phases to the adoption or, sort of, the awareness of the technology, the usage of that technology and then the innovation of it. So I have to be aware of what it is, and then I have to try it, and then after I try it, at that point, it’s depending on my level of expertise and awareness in the industry, it’s going to take me some time to give new language to this new experience, this new way that I’m experiencing content.
And so, what tends to happen as we often say, people understand a new thing through the lens of an old thing. And so when you take something like Pokémon GO, which is an incredibly entertaining application, but you’re right, it’s significantly limited in terms — and it never really started out, never aimed to be the, sort of, answer for all augmented reality, but it sort of became that because —
Moser: Serendipitous, wasn’t it? I mean, I don’t know that that was the intention, but bam! There it was, and it opened it up to millions and millions of people.
Gates: I mean, for the next couple of years, people say, “Augmented reality, you know, like Pokémon GO.” And people know, “Oh, I get it.” And even that reference is a reference to understanding a new thing through the lens of an old thing. And so, as somebody is explaining the new capability of augmented reality, people then draw from their reference of the next closest thing that they do understand and then they pull from that and then limit the capability of that new thing, because the old thing has obvious limitations, thus there is a new thing.
And so, you know, it’s interesting for us, when we talk about adoption and how users are using augmented reality, the part of it that I think is meaningful is that the time that it takes for somebody to be aware to use it and then to innovate it is significantly expedited with immersive technology. And not just immersive tech, but the process of creating the technology, the process of standing up an application that has global-scale capability to do location-based entertainment with AR, you can stand that up in less time than [laughs] it takes to open a physical store. And so, it is, from a capability standpoint, to come up with an idea off of having tried it first.
Like, one of my favorite parts about interviewing people on this podcast is that we talk to people all the time who say, “Two years ago, I didn’t even know this industry existed.” And then “I took my significant industrial design capabilities or my significant engineering capabilities or my experience with NASA or whatever the cases and I pointed it at this new enabling capability of immersive technology and realized that I really just used it to accelerate what I already was able to do.” And so, what we can do is build new things really quickly, new capabilities, new awarenesses. And what that does is it removes us, forcibly, it removes us, from understanding that we experience this technology in one way, and it moves us into this world where maybe we don’t — because I think what’s interesting even about Wayfair is, before the augmented reality, before depth-sensing AR technology existed, and you could place objects in depth in your room, even before, I mean, people would actually take their whole computer, pick it up from their tabletop and, sort of, place it on the wall and try to hold it, because in that moment, we understand, even though we don’t — everyone doesn’t understand technologically why that doesn’t happen or can’t — we understand in our minds, it’s on computer, it’s on two dimension, it can exist in my three dimension.
And so, we just know, OK, a website like Wayfair is not going to work, because nobody is going to be able to understand spatially how objects fit in their room, but the reason that they don’t understand that yet is because they don’t understand the actual capabilities of the technology, that we can, that the phone actually can understand depth in the room and that we can identify tabletop surfaces, and then on those surfaces we can place graphical three-dimensional content pieces that are relevant to what that user wants to see. And that technological capability allows us to take that thing that the user wants to do, instead of holding up the computer screen, and then allows them to place that object there.
And then when we do it, like, when somebody sees that happening, it’s not like it’s this brand-new thing that they couldn’t conceive of, they see it happening and go, “Oh, yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly how that couch would look. Perfect! That’s awesome!” And it’s so utilitarian and it’s so known and understood, because it’s using the technology in a way that actually communicates the original context in the original context. And so I’m seeing the furniture in spatial value inside my room. As long as I’m getting to see what it’s going to look like in a box, check for me, I’ll purchase it online. Great! And so it totally changes the market.
So we see the adoption rate shifting and, sort of, becoming more exponential as people have an awareness, the ability to use it and then the ability to innovate with it.
Moser: And I think also, the neat thing about technology like this is, technology ultimately it compounds, right? I mean, the more and more we use it, the better and better it gets more and more quickly. And so, I mean, maybe this capability didn’t exist, necessarily, eight years ago or whenever. I mean, we’ve gone through iPhone all the way up here to iPhone 11, right? I mean, they didn’t always have those 3D sensing capabilities maybe that we have now, but you do see now — I mean, if a company like Wayfair, I mean, Home Depot is another, I mean, a lot of retailers that are out there, are now using this technology, and the main reason why is because they’re seeing results, they actually see that customers utilize this technology, and it results in conversion of sales. And ultimately in retail, that’s the goal, you want to sell stuff. And so if they can see that the tools they’re producing with their technology are resulting in actual sales conversions, well, they’re going to double-down on investments in that technology, they’re going to make it better and better and better.
And then, you pan all the way over to another market, something like healthcare, and that’s a market to me, that has just been fascinating to watch. I mean, my father is a physician. He’s a 77-year-old doctor, still practicing. And when I was talking to him about this new service, about immersive technology, and he’s asking me, what are you talking about, how does this apply? And I’m showing him something as simple as just, like, learning anatomy. I mean, there are apps out there now where you can actually — there are AR apps out there that can teach you anatomy just through using an app on your phone. But then you go all the way over to other companies. There are little companies out there, like Medivis, they’re utilizing immersive technology actually in the operating room to prep for surgery in order to achieve better outcomes. Intuitive Surgical, another company that has actually developed a training platform that utilizes augmented reality immersive technology in order to help people train and prepare and, ultimately, looking to just achieve better outcomes.
I mean, if you’re a physician, if you’re a surgeon and you can actually go into a surgery fully prepped and knowing where you need to be focused on and what you’re getting ready to encounter and what you need to do before you’ve ever even had really to go in there to do it. I mean, you’re likely going to achieve better outcomes.
And so we see companies like these doubling down on the investments in this technology, because the bottom line is, whether it’s in gaming or whether it’s in retail or whether it’s in healthcare, it’s ultimately achieving better outcomes, and that really is the goal.
And I think that now we’re getting to the point where we’re seeing immersive technology, it’s more than just entertainment, it’s more than just a cool little bell or whistle that’s on our phone that we can fiddle around with while we’re trying to waste some time. I mean, these are having real-life implications that are affecting people’s lives. And that to me, it’s a fascinating thing to watch and as investors, it’s a fascinating market to be a part of, because again, like I said, that technology, it compounds and it’s all about, kind of, trying to skate to where the puck is going. You know, we talk about the market being a forward-looking mechanism, we’re trying to skate to where the puck is going. And we see the puck going in the direction of that immersive technology, which is why we’re so focused on it now.
Gates: Yeah. And I like just the awareness of how immersive technology is — I agree with you, in its capability to grow exponentially, but it’s like it’s growing in different soil then the rest of technology, because it in itself — and I don’t mean the rest of, maybe the rest of communications technology. Because immersive technology, specifically, we have the ability to use the technology to make the technology smarter. And our ability to use virtual reality to actually make virtual reality faster is a pretty impressive thing. And that’s true of it as a communications technology.
And so, to me, what’s fascinating is that what ends up happening is you have these capabilities, it’s sort of the distributed economy where the distributed knowledge occurs, distributed information where you have the cell phone’s capability to understand images, for example, and to be able to recognize. As long as there’s a database running on the phone that understands what images it’s seeing, then it can use image recognition to identify objects. And then if the phone is also able to deploy augmented reality content based on that image recognition and be aware of that object in space, then all of those examples that you’re talking about in the surgical room, in the medical space, you can have on-demand learning where physicians can be inside a hospital setting and just by holding their phone over an object, we can deploy augmented reality content that’s training them on the nuances of how to use that tool, let’s just say inside the nuance situation of COVID-19.
So as procedures change, as tools change, as the ways that we understand the operational environment changes, as that changes in real-time, we can also adjust and shift the content in real time, and then that content is completely on demand to the user.
And so, you see how just even in that — I mean, that’s just an off-the-cuff example just based on what you’re saying. And so, in that example we’re talking about using augmented reality, but we’re also talking about using a variety of other immersive technology, sort of, frameworks to be able to provide an overall awareness scenario where the medical facilities now can create, sort of, distributed learning on demand, but it can be based on the actual tools and implements inside the facility, instead of it being off of an education system that requires logistics and planning and scheduling and travel and all of that type of stuff. With inside immersive technology, we can remove those barriers and make it faster, smarter and more comprehensive.
And so, what I like about what’s happening in that, sort of, exponential nature of — the reason why I say, it feels like it’s growing in a different soil is because it’s not just a technology like the phone, it is a technology that enables a variety of other technologies to be created and built and leveraged and a variety of other communication platforms to be built on top of the ability to distribute information through augmented reality. And so it is itself a technology, but it is also an enabling technology that generates other technologies. And that’s where we see it, sort of, growing exponentially.
Moser: Yeah. And I’m glad you said that, because it does feel like, I mean, it seems like every year till we hear, OK, we’re talking 2G, now we’re talking 3G, now we’re talking 4G, and now, of course, we’re talking 5G. And that’s been one of the buzzwords in the investment world for a while now, the 5G technology. You know, Apple incorporating this into their phones, and 5G is going to make everything faster, we’re going to be able to stream our videos faster, we’re going to be able to get access to things more quickly.
I mean, it does seem like the value proposition that’s communicated to just us, as everyday consumers, is that 5G, it’s going to make things faster. But you and I, I mean, we all know that it’s not just about speed, what 5G ultimately is doing beyond, you know, close to zero latency, it’s really expanding the amount of data, the amount of information that could be transferred in these quick time frames.
And so, if you don’t mind, actually, [laughs] I’d like to ask you a question, because I mean, you have a lot of experience in this space, you all do. And I hear both arguments, I hear both sides of the coin. Some who feel like 5G maybe isn’t as big of a deal as some might think it could be. And I hear others say that 5G really is going to be revolutionary from a number of stances. I personally I think that 5G, given the opportunity to be able to transfer more data, more rich content, more robust data, I think it could have a profound impact, but I’d be curious to know yours all take on 5G and what do you think the impact of 5G ultimately will be before we start focusing on 6G and ultimately. I mean, I’m already hearing talk about 10G, but let’s focus on 5G for now. How do you feel about 5G? I mean, this is going to be as revolutionary as something?
Gates: Yes, I certainly think so. And I think that way because of, I will start out by saying that, a lot of our listeners know, but outside of hosting the VR/AR Association podcast, I have a company called Brightline Interactive, and we do a considerable amount of work specifically with 5G, we build technology that leverages 5G, so that we can help the general population and other audiences understand the value propositions for 5G. And so we are boots on the ground and have definitely been rolling up our sleeves over the last year-and-a-half and building out some impressive technology experiences. We get to work with AT&T, and we do a lot of really fun exciting activations with them and build out a lot of products that use 5G. And so we work a lot with the technology, and so I want to start out by saying that.
But at the same time, sort of, beyond just the capability of the technology, it is in terms of what does it do for the consumer, what it’s doing for the larger, sort of, I would say global economy is, to me, what is more valuable to talk about. So I mean, to the consumer, I can totally understand it, because a lot of telecom companies have spent years communicating the message of data plans being faster. And so, it’s natural that people understand that, OK, well, it’s another G, so it’s 5G, OK, so it must be even faster.
And so, that makes total sense, but the truth is that 5G creates both speed and capacity and it’s the “and capacity” part that is missing from a lot of people’s understanding of what 5G will do for the economy, [laughs] for the global economy. And that is, the way that I usually describe it is — it’s when we have the convergence of 5G, cloud computing and immersive technology, you have the ingredients, those three ingredients, you have ingredients to completely transform the way communication is currently, sort of, mainstream. Because what we open up is the ability to what 5G does as an enabling technology is, it allows us to create applications that are pulling in data from the real world and then allowing us to use that real-world data in real time inside virtual worlds. And so, this is just one example of the enablement capabilities of 5G.
But because 5G has the ability for us to build sensor systems that are ingesting — like, for example, we do a lot of work with a fun partner of ours, Teslasuit, and it’s a full-body haptic suit that does motion capture, biometry, and electrical muscle stimulation, and we can track your movement in space. We tested the suit with 5G, and so the suit is able to understand its position in space, but it’s also able to understand the body mechanics, the motion of the body in real time. And so we understand the volume capacity of how somebody is moving and translating that information wirelessly in real time into a virtual environment. And the capability of being able to do that allows us to have live real-time digital-twin scenarios. And if you think about having that for an entire global corporation or an entire logistics supply chain, those types of things, we can significantly increase efficiency inside enterprise systems, as well as entertainment systems and, sort of, communication systems at large. But the reason that we’re able to do that is we have a foundational technology, a data transfer technology that allows us to transfer information so fast and at such high volumes that it allows us to create immersive content and lay that content on top of the real world.
So how you see that, how you visualize, we often call it virtual layering. And it’s just the idea that we have, in the real world, we have virtual layers of the real world, but you can only access and see those virtual layers through some sort of device, because you’re looking through a device, the device like your phone, your tablet is allowing you to see that content in augmented reality. The only thing that stops us from having content that blankets the whole earth in augmented reality is bandwidth and data transfer speed capability. And so what this enables us to do is to help people understand that we can present data visually in its original visual context, and that content is typically called augmented or virtual reality, because we’re talking about creating graphic content that’s at human-size scale, that makes you feel like you’re in it. And that capability of doing that allows you to understand that information in the same way that you understand it in the real world.
And so, the ability to create that level of awareness, imagine having a Google where you could google for the awareness of any environment. Like, whereas right now, like, now we think about it as this, like, totally normal thing to — if you need to know something, I mean, I have a google pulled up on my second screen here. If I need to know something, I can just google it and I can get the awareness of it in a two-dimensional context. I can be aware of that information two-dimensionally as it’s listed on the page. And that information helps me understand new things, new things I didn’t understand before. See, with immersive technology and 5G, we can do that same capacity where we can have a catalog of all of the information, but instead of that information existing two-dimensionally in written form on pages, I can just actually represent that information in its original visual, spatial context. And so, from your phone, let’s say, you could look up the awareness of a spatial context that you would like to know really quickly before you walk into a meeting or before you make a big decision at a global scale. So that you can understand something at university or so that you can train better or whatever the case is, it’s the same level of, like, same sort of ambulatory way that we approach Google, it’s so easy to do this, to get this awareness. We can create that awareness with immersive technology.
But the thing that stops us or slows down the progress is the ability to display the information and transfer the information. And that’s what 5G enables us to do. So it’s not just another G, it’s not just a way to make your phone faster, see your YouTube video faster, you know, whatever the case is, it’s a way for us to bring the contents of that YouTube video into your living room like it was a normal, regular, everyday occurrence, on demand.
Moser: And I think that can be one of the most profound impacts, because I think we, as people, generally speaking, we process so much visually. I mean, when we see, I mean, that’s what this does, it’s enabling us to see or to visualize data. And we’re seeing companies like Salesforce, you even see big banks, Wells Fargo even, they’re figuring out ways to incorporate augmented reality and immersive technology into just being able to visualize data. Take data that if you were to just to look at, it would seem to be all Greek, you would have to decipher it and try to parse it. But this technology allows you to visualize it and you can process that, you can understand that so much more quickly when it’s presented in a visual form that makes more sense.
Gates: Yeah. And just on that point specifically, I mean, that’s exactly — I mean, you’re so spot on. And on that point specifically, we got the pleasure of working recently with American College of Preventative Medicine, ACPM, and we did something very similar, where they have a lot of data that represents really, really critical information in inner-city scenarios where they’re talking about social determinants of health. And so, they want to take that critical information to the Hill, to Congress, and they want to advocate on behalf of, sort of, generating awareness around social determinants of health. And so, it’s a relatively complex data story, because you’re talking about data points across the entire United States.
So how do you tell that story in a really short period of time and demonstrate the impact? Well, we took all of that data and we just created a virtual environment. So instead of that data, like you said, Jason, I mean, if you were to look at the raw data, you’re talking about numbers and figures in two dimensions on a screen and how does that — you would ask yourself by looking at that data, unless you understood how to read that data, in other words, unless you understood how to translate that data, you wouldn’t actually know what it represents. But the irony of the whole scenario is that that data is actually not the original context, that data is a translation of the original context. The original context of that data has some sort of physical — not necessarily physical, but has some sort of spatial capacity. It represents something in space.
And so what augmented reality is doing is really just skipping the step of translating the data, translating the information using the written form. And so, if you can just have the information. So if you’re talking about live collaboration on designing a vehicle, let’s say, and traditionally, you create the three-dimensional design and then you pass that three dimensional design through the process, through the team, people give feedback, but how do they give feedback? In written form. So they, sort of, distill the physical version of that car, and they write about what they want to do in terms of design for that car, but what if you didn’t have to do the writing part? What if you could skip that, but it’s really, really difficult for us, for human beings to think that way, because it’s so ingrained in us that we learn information and we communicate information in a two-dimensional context.
And part of that barrier is the barrier that we see to the growth in the industry. And so, as people become more aware that you can actually entirely remove holistic processes that used to exist in the communication process, because augmented reality can communicate information in its original context, that’s how we make communication faster. That’s why immersive technology is faster as a medium to learn information, because it’s skipping all of the translation steps and it’s just giving you the original context. The easiest way to think about it is, we do this example all the time, but if you think about it, Jason, or if you’re listening, think about going in your kitchen and grabbing a glass of water. Like, right now, everyone who’s listening has created that image in your head, that spatial image of what it’s like, what does your kitchen look like, which cabinet is that glass in, and are you pulling water from the fridge or from the tap? I mean, people have thought through that whole process in a matter of seconds. And you’ve created a spatial image inside your head of what that — and almost, sort of, like a feeling. And what we’re saying is, the power of augmented reality, enabled by 5G, because it can be distributed across the globe on demand, is that we can deliver that level of spatial awareness that you just created in five seconds in your head, but instead of using written form of communication, we can just communicate that spatial representation.
It’s hard for folks, at times, to place that capability in line with where we are in the industry, but that capability is upon us right now.
Moser: Well, and it feels like, it’s just going to consist of a lot of “Aha!” moments, right? I mean, there’s going to be just a sequence of “Aha!” moments along the way where describing it, explaining it sometimes can be tricky. You come up with good real-life examples, like the glass-of-water example right there that you just offered up. And I think Pokémon GO, as simple as that was, I think that was an “Aha!” moment, and I think we’ll see more of those “Aha!” moments as time goes on, as we proceed forward, you know, I mean we go from 5G to 6G to 10G or whatever.
I mean, technology is only going to become more profound and there will be more “Aha!” moments along the way. And it’s just, you have to have that sort of kinesthetic “Oh, wow! There it is, I get it now,” you know, “I feel that, I see it, I understand it better now that I’ve actually experienced it.” And I think that we’re starting to see some more of those little “Aha!” moments along the way. Sort of, they occur, whether it’s in healthcare and retail or in gaming or entertainment. And I think that’s the exciting part, is watching all of these little “Aha!” moments unfold and seeing how that technology, those concepts proliferate.
And like you said, ultimately it is, I mean, the world is really smaller than it ever has been thanks to technology, and I think that’s only going to continue as time goes on.
Gates: Yeah, we agree.
Moshasha: So Jason, I have to ask you, just pivoting a little bit, when you’re talking about “Aha!” moments, have you seen any of those, or have you experienced any of those in the immersive technology industry as it pertains to the COVID-19 response? I just have to ask, because we’re in the heat of it right now, and I know there’s a lot going on from our perspective, and I know that you probably have come across a lot of it yourself. So I just want to know from your perspective.
Moser: Yeah. I mean, this has really been a fascinating time. I mean, I don’t think any of us have really lived through a pandemic of this sort of nature before, so it’s a little bit of a new experience for all of us. And I think, I don’t know if I’ve necessarily seen the “Aha!” moment, but I think we’re on the cusp of it. When we see companies like Apple and Alphabet, and even the co-founder of Pinterest, developing apps that are helping to actually locate where hot spots may be, where outbreaks may be, being able to be able to gather that data and present it in a visual form. Maybe that’s just an app on your phone, where you’re looking and you’re actually seeing an app or a map of where particular outbreaks might be. I think you’re seeing a lot of potential there.
And it’s something, obviously, that would not have been possible 20 years ago. You would have just been watching the evening news or reading the newspaper the day after the actual event happened, whereas now, you are seeing actual real-time data, heat maps showing you the higher-risk areas. And I think ultimately what that does is it allows states, it allows countries, it allows governments to make better decisions. I mean, you may not necessarily have to shut down an entire location, if you know that really the higher-risk areas are in one place and there are lower-risk areas over here.
So I think, it’s really, to me, that has been a little bit an “Aha!” moment, watching these companies build these tools to help us deal with this particular crisis.
And I mean, you know, there is a little bit of a garbage-in, garbage-out risk there. I mean, it is dependent on the information that’s input, but generally speaking, I think that’s been pretty fascinating to watch. And I can only imagine, I would imagine that 5 to 10 years from now, assuming that something like this will happen again, I mean, unfortunately, that’s just, Mother Nature, she controls all, I think. [laughs] So we’ll see something like this happen again, but I think we’ll also have even better tools to cope with it and respond to it than we do now, just like we have those better tools now than we had 10 or 15 years ago.
Moshasha: Yeah, I mean, I got to say, definitely makes me proud to be in the industry now and be able to be on the leading edge of helping in the response of all the social distancing that we’ve had to encounter now and kind of had to figure out ways to overcome, like, some of the webinars and live podcasts and live events that we’ve attended and also hosted. So I’m excited to see where it goes. And such a short time, I think this is just the start of where we’re going to be in the mid and long term. And I think it’s definitely going to propel our industry forward very fast, faster than we thought we would.
Moser: Absolutely. I think the investments that have been made into immersive technology, in general, I mean, that to me — we’re going to be bearing the fruit for many, many years to come. But I mean, this technology, it compounds, I mean, as it gets better, it only accelerates. And I think we passed, really, the tipping point of whether or not people believe it’s actually something real and can matter in their lives. I mean, there was an example of a trial that was being done, a test that was being done at a university out of California, I believe it was, where augmented reality is being used to help the blind see.
And I mean, that’s something that for me, before I even really got started in this space, I would have never thought of that, because I think most people, when they think of immersive technology, they think visual, they think that it’s something that they’re seeing, but they’re not thinking about things like auditory cues or haptic technology, all of these things that exist now that didn’t exist before. I mean, these are little things that are augmenting our physical world through technology. And I think people are starting to become more educated about what augmented reality is, what virtual reality really is, what immersive technology really is, and they’re seeing that there are a lot of little examples that have existed in our lives for a few years now, but they never really connected the dots. So I think those dots are becoming easier to connect now.
Gates: Yeah. No, we agree, Jason. Listen, I think if there’s one thing that could be said about it is that there’s a significant amount of hope in immersive technology. Just even what we’ve been talking about here today, it’s just that immersive technology combined with 5G allows us to invent worlds, invent scenarios, invent solutions that were not previously even understood. And by previously, in some cases, I mean six months ago.
And we have a front-row seat. We’re working on a regular basis inside these spaces and we are developing technologies that can service millions of people, and we’re recognizing the need for those technologies in a five-week period over the last five weeks, and then pivoting really fast and coming up with ways to now build new variations of those technologies, but actually leveraging augmented and virtual reality to do that.
We’re at my company, we’re meeting on a regular basis in virtual reality, even though we’re all at home. We’re a creative design technology company that’s making a lot of stuff, but making it all from home. And the way that we found it to be fastest to meet and get full context together is to meet inside virtual reality. So we’re actually using virtual reality in environments that we’ve built for ourselves to actually help expedite and create a more efficient process to make immersive technology for our clients.
And those are, we’re using virtual reality in ways that we’re being forced to use it, that we didn’t have to use it, even as we are creators, in the past. And so what we’re seeing coming out of this is the forcing nature of innovation. And there is a lot of hope in immersive technology.
And, look, Jason, we appreciate your expertise and your thought and all of your background information, in terms of also, sort of, validating augmented reality in terms of an immersive technology, and look, I can’t wait to have you back. [laughs]
Moser: [laughs] Well, listen, as soon as we get back to normal. I mean, I’m really excited, because you’ve already extended the invitation to come over there and check out your office, check out the Teslasuit and the HoloLens too and everything. And I can’t wait to do that because, you know, at the recommendation of a friend of mine, I read the book Ready Player One a little while back. And just the pictures, the things that go on in my mind from reading that book. I never saw the movie, and I don’t want to see it, because the book, I’ve got this romanticized version of immersive technology now just from that book alone. I mean, I’m really excited to get over there and see that stuff.
Because, again, I mean, this is the marrying of the two worlds for me, I mean, the investing side that I know so well, and really, the technology side that you all know so well. And I’m excited to do more with you guys and learn more along the way. And, I mean, let’s reciprocate here, because I think next time, you guys come over to our studio at Fool HQ and we’ll do this again.
Gates: Deal, deal.
Moshasha: Looking forward to doing, yeah. This was fun, Jason, thank you.
Moser: Absolutely. Thank you.
As always, people on the program may have interests in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don’t buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear.
Thanks to producer extraordinaire Austin Morgan for constantly making magic happen for us. I’m Jason Moser. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.
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